Natalie Williams
How do we decide who to vote for?

Last week an 80-year-old woman in my church came up to me to talk about the General Election. She’s lived through and voted in 15 of them in the past, but this is the first time that she can’t work out who to vote for.

Since the General Election was called, I’ve received over half a dozen messages from friends asking for my advice on how to vote. These are people who have, in the past, voted for the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. A couple of friends who I know have always voted Conservative before are considering voting Labour and vice versa.

It’s astonishing that our political life over the last couple of years has been so chaotic, uncertain and fractious that even those of us who might have felt strong party political ties in the past, now feel alienated and unsure of how to cast our vote.

While it’s nice that friends are asking my opinion about what to do on 12 December, my honest answer is that I don’t know. For weeks, I’ve been pondering that if an election was called in the current political climate, I might have to spoil my ballot paper.

I’m not contemplating that lightly. If I do it, it will be as an act of protest. Not voting is not an option – our right to vote was hard won and in some places around the world people are still fighting and even dying for the same right.

But I’ve never felt so heavy-hearted about voting as I do now. When I look at both my local options and my national options, I’m struggling to work out what to do.

There are usually two main factors I consider when casting my vote:

  1. The impact on those in poverty in our communities;
  2. The character of the candidates.

On the first one, I believe that Christians should never vote out of personal preference, but should always be thinking about the common good. It is especially important that we think through the impact of each party’s policies on those facing poverty and injustice.

As the statistics on the centre pages of our recently published Deepening Crisis booklet show, our nation is facing various crises – just look at mental health, care of older people, violent crime, food poverty, homelessness and housing, in-work poverty, domestic abuse, debt, child poverty, addiction, and so on…

When deciding how to vote, it’s vitally important for those who follow Jesus to care about people who are vulnerable and marginalised. This is a significant factor that may stop me spoiling my ballot paper – it’s hard to see how that will help people in poverty.

As for character, this is hugely important for Christians too, though can be trickier to navigate as we don’t always know our local candidates, and often are reliant on an imperfect and agenda-driven (on both sides) media to tell us about national leaders.

But character is important. The Bible sets out clear criteria for church leaders, and attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, compassion, being able to disagree well, honouring your opponents, and a passionate anger against injustice are all things I want to see in my leaders.

I am praying and longing for leaders who are characterised by mercy – whether that’s mercy towards the poorest person they meet or mercy towards the most powerful people they encounter.

Outside of my own constituency, I have and will continue to publicly support a very dear friend of mine who is running as a candidate, because I know what she stands for and I know how hard she will work. She’ll be an outstanding MP and if I could vote for her, I would. It’s got nothing to do with party politics, but everything to do with knowing who she is, what she cares about and is motivated by, and that she will stand up for the rights of those facing poverty and injustice.

Also outside of my home town, I have another friend who is running as a candidate for a different political party. She is a Christian and I’m supporting her with some practical advice because I believe she wants to do good for those who are hardest hit by the various crises mentioned above. Again, it’s not about party politics. It’s about the person.

The truth is that there are people in most of the main political parties that exhibit the characteristics and concerns that I want to see in my leaders, and there are people in all of them who do not.

I cannot vote for either of my friends mentioned above because they aren’t running to become my local MP. So I still don’t know what I’ll do, but I do know that I will spend as much time as possible between now and 12 December trying to figure out who to vote for based on the two factors above.

And I’ll pray, obviously.

Jubilee+ is not aligned with and does not endorse any political party. We work with MPs from all parties to actively advocate on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable.

We were recently asked to pray for the nation at this time and one of the things we prayed for is elected representatives of good character, irrespective of party. You can listen to or read the prayer here.